Who Played James Bond: A Complete History
If you asked someone who the first actor to play James Bond was, they would probably answer Sean Connery. Similarly, if you were to ask how many actors had played the role, most people would say 5 or 6. You may be surprised to know that the above answers are wrong. Below, we give you the complete history of all of the actors who have played James Bond, not only in the official series, but in unofficial films, TV series and radio shows.
1954 Barry Nelson
In early 1954, Ian Fleming was paid $1000 for the television rights for Casino Royale. The novel was adapted into an hour long TV special and was broadcast on CBS on October 21st, 1954 as an episode of the Climax! Mystery Theatre.
It was a low budget black and white episode that was adapted by Charles Bennett, who wrote the screenplays for most of Alfred Hitchcock's films in the 1930s. It starred Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre, Linda Christian as Valerie Mathis, Michael Pate as Clarence Leiter, and American actor Barry Nelson as the first ever James Bond.
Barry played James Bond very casually, and despite several laughable fighting and torture scenes, the episode was an interesting and enjoyable rendition of Casino Royale. Peter Lorre in particular was a strong addition to the cast. The episode appears as a special feature on the DVD for the 1967 spoof film Casino Royale.
1956 Bob Holness
In 1956, Bob Holness provided the voice for James Bond in a South African radio adaption of the Ian Fleming novel Moonraker. He would later go on to become an actor and game show host for Take a Letter and Blockbusters.
The Moonraker special was arranged by the Durban Repertory Theatre. Bob has said that it was broadcast live, and as such, there is no known recording of it. It is believed that local performers from Durban voiced the other roles, and that the production was under ninety minutes.
1962 Bob Simmons
The first official EON Productions James Bond film, Dr. No, was released in 1962. It opened with the gun barrel sequence that would become a trademark of the series. James Bond, played by stuntman Bob Simmons, walked along a white backdrop, shown through the view of a henchman's gun barrel. Aware that he was being watched, Bond quickly turned and shot the assassin. Blood dripped down the screen, the gun barrel trailing off and opening to reveal the main titles.
Bob Simmons could arguably be called the first official James Bond actor, and he was in fact the first person to portray 007 in a cinema-released Bond film. Bob's scene was reused up until Goldfinger, before being reshot with Sean Connery.
1962-1967 Sean Connery
In 1962, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman brought James Bond to the silver screen in Dr. No, based on Ian Fleming's 1958 novel. With Sean Connery's unique style, the exotic locations, and the spectacular supporting cast, Dr. No became an instant success.
1964 Roger Moore
In 1964, between playing Simon Templar on The Saint, Roger Moore starred as James Bond in an episode of the comedy sketch show Mainly Millicent.
In the 7 minute sketch, James Bond is on holiday and goes for lunch, only to meet Russian Spy Sonia Sekova. Sonia is also on holiday, and the two spies suspect that the other is spying on them, resulting in some comical situations. Bond discovers the waiter is wearing a wig and punches him over the balcony, and the two throw several drinks over their shoulders, suspecting cyanide pills. They both get called back on to cases and end the episode with a kiss.
1967 David Niven
In the mid 1960s, American producer Charles K. Feldman acquired the film rights to Casino Royale. After a failed attempt to have it made as part of the official series, he decided to turn it into a James Bond spoof instead.
The film opens with David Niven playing a retired 007. M begs him to come back to them, and when Bond refuses, his mansion is promptly blown up! M is killed in the explosion and Bond takes over his position.
He decides to rename all of the agents to James Bond to confuse the enemy. This results in David Niven, Terence Cooper, Woody Allen, Joanna Pettet, Daliah Lavi, Peter Sellers and Ursula Andress all playing James Bond!
1969 George Lazenby
After Sean Connery's departure from the series in 1967, the producers began the search for a new James Bond. They found Australian model George Lazenby, who was the highest paid model in the world at the time.
During production, George's manager advised him against accepting a multi-movie contract, believing that the Bond movies would loose their popularity. How wrong he was. On Her Majesty's Secret Service was George Lazenby's first and last appearance in the Bond series, although in later years, he played Bond-like characters in several TV spoofs.
1971 Sean Connery
When George Lazenby retired from the series after filming On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the producers became desperate to find a new James Bond, as they had already sold part of the new film's proceedings to investors. The head of United Artists told them to bring back Sean Connery at any cost. Sean eventually agreed to do one last film, getting paid a $1.25 million base salary plus an estimated 12.5% of the profits.
Sean's performance in Diamonds Are Forever was as good as his prior Bonds, and the film was an enjoyable success. However, it would be the last time that he worked for EON Productions. Sean chose to donate his entire base salary to a Scottish education charity.
Continue to Part 2 »